Star Trek mosaic's Christmas landing

27-Dec-12 8:29 PM by
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This year, Star Trek: The Next Generation turned 25. The occasion was popularly celebrated with theatrical screenings and Blu-ray releases, but I wanted to commemorate the milestone personally as well, for this year marked the 25th anniversary of my introduction to the franchise. And I wanted to thank the person responsible for that turning point in my life: my father.

There exists a company called Fan Mosaics which operates on a tried-and-true theory: include your fans in your product, and their ego will guarantee a sale. I've previously and happily supplied my contact info to Paramount and CBS, and Fan Mosaics must've collaborated with them, as they reached out to me with an invitation: provide them with a photo, and they'd include it in a mosaic of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701D, absolutely free. Thousands of other fans had previously provided the photographic material for Fan Mosaic to assemble images of Kirk, Spock, and the original Enterprise, so I'm sure they felt confident letting me know that, if I wanted the final print, it'd be only $19.95 plus shipping.

Although the software to create photo mosaics is nothing extraordinary, I was charmed by the prospect of a visual representation of the community that has formed around Star Trek. My father made me a member of that group, and though he may not participate as enthusiastically as I do, he too belongs in that pantheon. It seemed appropriate for us to be included in the mosaic. I submitted a photo taken of us and my oldest brother at the opening of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie. Although it does not show any one of us close up, it is the most thematically appropriate photo I could think of to submit.

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As Star Trek: The Next Generation turns 25, my 14 favorite episodes

28-Sep-12 1:08 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.
My father never signed me up for Little League or Boy Scouts or karate lessons. Instead, 25 years ago today, he sat me down to watch the premiere of the follow-up to a show he watched as a boy: Star Trek. The debut of The Next Generation in 1987 marked the first return of the show to television since The Original Series went off the air 18 years earlier. With TNG, Star Trek remained on TV for another 18 years, until the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005. It remained a weekly tradition for me and my father for that entire time, more than half my life thus far, and has defined more of my interests and ambitions than I can measure.
Star Trek: The Next Generation cast

They boldly went — and took me and my dad along for the ride.


TNG is now being re-released on Blu-ray DVD, including several bonus features, such as "The Origins of The Next Generation". "There are a lot of issues and challenges in the Eighties and Nineties and the end of the century that need talking about — and they need talking about in drama, because drama will move people, cause people to think much more than any street show," said Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. In the course of addressing those issues, Roddenberry and crew created some wonderful, memorable stories featuring a talented cast. I recounted many of them in a special package that friends Peter Watson, Gene Demaitre, and I put together for the show's 20th anniversary in 2007, but at no point did I specifically name my favorite episodes.

Since the cast and crew of TNG recently identified their favorites, I figured I should, too. So finally, out of 178 episodes, here are 14 that, in no particular order, stand out in my memory.

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Rethinking Super Megafest

11-Nov-11 11:06 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 2 comments.

For the past several years, I've made an annual tradition of attending the Super Megafest, a sci-fi and nostalgia convention held in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's not a massive affair, but for its size and location, it's still fairly enjoyable, with several aspects to entertain the showgoer: vendors of various geek goods; celebrities on-hand for personal autographs (not free or even cheap!); Q&A sessions with said celebrities; and more.

R2!But I found 2010 to be mildly disappointing, due to a variety of logistical decisions. The Q&A sessions are scheduled for specific times and days, but the event coordinator chooses not to publicize those schedules ahead of time, such as on the Super Megafest Web site; my email requesting this data confirmed that it is not available in advance. Although I realize celebrities' schedules often cannot be determined until the last minute, it's frustrating for me to not know if I should be at the conference on Saturday at 10 AM or 5 PM, or on Sunday. Without the Q&A, I need only an hour or two to absorb the event in its entirety; it's unreasonable to block out an entire two-day weekend for whenever the Q&As might be.

The comfort of the celebrities is of course the organizers' priority, so rather than have the stars stand for an hour during Q&A, they're allowed to sit. But the session is held in a conference room large enough that folks in the back can't see someone seated at the front. A simple riser that would elevate the celebrity would be a simple fix.

Last year, I calculated the cost of admission plus that of Christopher Lloyd's autograph and decided it was worth getting the "VIP speed pass", which included admission and autographs by Lloyd and Lea Thompson. The "speed" aspect allowed me to bypass the line for this celebrity, which would otherwise take hours to traverse. But there was no fine print indicating that this privilege was valid only from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM! The Web site informed me only that I was paying for "a beat-the-line speed pass". Such vague terminology bordered on the deceptive.

Christopher Lloyd at the Q&A.Despite all that, I was still glad for the opportunity to meet the stars. Few people had paid for the speed pass, which also granted exclusive access to Lloyd's Q&A session, which made for an intimate setting. Everyone got to ask a question, with mine being: "Does an actor of your renown still have to audition for parts, or are they written for or handed to you?" Lloyd said that sometimes, the writers say to themselves, "Oh, this script calls for a drunk? Let's get Lloyd." But more often, he still needs to audition, as it's not always clear whether he or someone else will be right for a part. Lea Thompson never showed up, so my pass got me two Lloyd autographs instead.

I also met Marina Sirtis, better known as Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG. She was very friendly and fun, laughing and smiling and calling everyone "hon". When I saw the various 8"x10" glossies she had available to autograph, I chose an off-camera shot from First Contact, commenting, "You were so funny in that film!" She responded, "I was more myself in that Star Trek movie than in any other."

I had some time to kill between sessions, so I sat in on a Q&A by Kristin Bauer, who plays Pam De Beaufort on True Blood. I'd never seen this show so wasn't very interested, but she redeemed herself with the credit of playing Lt. Laneth on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.

I ended the show by getting Peter Mayhew's autograph. The taciturn Wookie didn't have much to say and didn't offer to personalize his signature, though he did do so after I handed it back with the request.

The headliners for this year's Super Megafest are Patrick Stewart and Sean Astin. After a month of waffling, and with just a week to spare, I coughed up the dough for another VIP speed pass. I'm a bit disenchanted with Super Megafest, though, and would not have been roped in for another expensive pass for anyone other than Captain Picard.

New Celebrities for Star Trek

09-Sep-10 12:57 PM by
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When Star Trek: First Contact premiered, the Boston Herald published a rather incendiary review by James Verniere. Though he was judging the film from the perspective of a non-Trekkie, many of his comments were baseless, such as the utter confusion he experienced over Picard's history with the Borg. Did the film not feature a monologue addressing that very point?

One of Mr. Verniere's more interesting comments was that Star Trek had to stop recruiting from within its own ranks (the film's director was Jonathan Frakes). Why not have Antonio Banderas as an ensign on the Enterprise, he suggested? I presume the critic was trying to expand the franchise's appeal by giving non-Trekkies a point of familiarity by which to be introduced to the series. Though it would be jarring for an established cast to suddenly be joined by an actor known for non-sci-fi work, Mr. Verniere's suggestion proved correct in the appropriate context: the presence of Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Zachary Quinto, and others didn't detract from but added to last year's reboot of Star Trek: TOS, which provided an entirely new slate on which these actors could gel as a team.

What other celebrities might Star Trek benefit from introducing? We still don't know what's to come in the sequel, slated for release on June 29, 2012 — but we can imagine what it might look like if Nicolas Cage, Summer Glau, and David Tennant joined the ranks of Starfleet, courtesy the Photoshop machinations of Rabittooth.

Several of the stars in this small sampling would surely be scene-stealers; Kevin Spacey warrants nothing less than prime antagonist, for example. But Brandon Routh, whose one leading role as Superman was fleeting enough to allow him to turn in a stellar yet innocuous performance in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, could be a subtle yet effective addition to any bridge crew.

This isn't the first time non-Trek actors have been inserted into Gene Roddenberry's universe. Alex Luko transposed one show's entire cast onto the Enterprise with a result that left geeks salivating:

Firefly Star Trek

I had likened Serenity's crew to the Enterprise's myself so can totally see such a shift of universes as successful.

Who would you like to see in the next Star Trek movie, and why?

NASA to Relaunch Firefly's Serenity

20-Feb-09 11:43 AM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Seven years after Star Trek went off the air in 1969, fans engaged in a letter-writing campaign to have NASA's first space shuttle christened the Enterprise. Now, fans of modern sci-fi have a similar opportunity to impact our culture. Until March 20th, NASA is accepting votes to name the third node to be installed on the International Space Station. "The name should reflect the spirit of exploration and cooperation embodied by the space station, and follow in the tradition set by Node 1- Unity- and Node 2- Harmony," they suggest. In addition to writing one in, voters can choose one of four default choices:

  • Earthrise
  • Legacy
  • Serenity
  • Venture

Node 3 of the International Space Station.  Image courtesy NASA.

Node 3 of the International Space Station. Image courtesy NASA.

Naturally, fans of Joss Whedon's short-lived series, Firefly, and its subsequent feature film, Serenity, see only one choice out of the four — and I have to admit, there's a certain logic to it. It is the trend for science fiction to become science fact, as evidenced in one episode of Firefly when pilot Wash remarked, "That sounds like something out of science fiction," to which his wife reminded him, "We live on a spaceship, dear." Additional nodes on the ISS expand, in just the smallest way, humanity's ability to colonize space, which is surely a step in the right direction. So don your browncoats and cast your votes to launch Serenity once again!

(Hat tips to SJVN and Lisa Hoover)

The Enterprise Enterprise

17-Sep-08 1:00 PM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek; 3 comments.

Jerry Seinfeld's recent team-up with Bill Gates for a bizarre set of advertisements has put me in mind of other famous celebrity endorsements — especially when it comes to Star Trek. The show's futuristic setting has left Star Trek relatively immune to product placement, but that hasn't stopped the franchise from appearing elsewhere to promote services both related and otherwise. I'm not speaking of the show's actors, taken out of their galactic context, hawking wares such as the Commodore VIC-20, but actual in-character sales pitches.

The most recent and famous example may be William Shatner plugging DirecTV:

Of course, once you find the DirecTV channel you want, put down the remote and get your hands busy with some finger-lickin' goodness:

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A Fool's Trek

01-Apr-08 3:45 PM by
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It's April Fool's Day, which is often a relished opportunity for creative mischief. An outlet for such comic imagination used to be StarTrek.com — up until its managing geniuses were summarily executed. Fortunately, their past efforts are timeless and are still available through the magic of the Internet Archive. Courtesy its Wayback Machine, I present to you the hilarious news reports of April 1, 2005 (links will load slowly — be patient):


Remember that three years ago this month, we were on the cusp of the cancellation of Enterprise. To see that first headline above set my heart atwitter — until I remembered the date. It was cruel of our overlords to toy with our emotions so carelessly… but they made up for it with the excellent Mirror Universe FAQ.

A few other pieces were not captured by the Wayback Machine but have been reposted to a Trek message board:


It's nice to know humor will survive into the 24th century!

One Giant Leap for Klingonkind

18-Dec-07 2:37 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Star Trek, Television; 1 comment.

I was finishing up the second season of Quantum Leap on DVD last night when the opening credits for the episode "Sea Bride" revealed a John Hertzler. Suspecting that he would become better known by his initials, I did not keep an eye out for a face I wouldn't recognize without extensive makeup, but an ear open for an unmistakably gruff voice. Sure enough, there he was — the man better known as Deep Space Nine's General Martok.

Quantum Leap

In the above shot, he and Scott Bakula share a victory; below, they toast their glory with a mug of bloodwine.

Enterprise

His characters are surprisingly similar, with almost interchangeable lines. You'd expect the following retort to come from Star Trek — but it didn't: